No-one can fail to be impressed with this glorious café au lait-coloured pavlova, topped with billowing marsala-flavoured whipped cream and crowned with shards of white chocolate. There are a few simple rules to follow for pavlovas: use fresh, room temperature egg whites: never whisk the egg whites on high speed-medium is best: add the sugar gradually and whisk well between each addition (at least 30-40 seconds) to allow the sugar to dissolve: don’t have the oven on too high or the meringue will rise and then collapse: leave the pavlova to cool fully in the oven. Inevitably there may be a degree of cracking and sinking but the joy of the pavlova is the cream and decoration hide a multitude of imperfections. The important thing is it will still taste divine.
- 4 medium egg whites, about 155g total weight
- 230g caster sugar
- 1 heaped tablespoon espresso coffee powder (the very fine stuff)
- 1 teaspoon cornflour
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 150g white chocolate, finely chopped
- 500ml double cream
- 5 tablespoons Marsala
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
- Heat the oven to fan 120˚c, mark ¼. Line a flat baking tray with non-stick baking parchment and draw a 20cm circle in the centre. Turn the sheet over so the pencil mark doesn’t come off on the meringue.
- Put the egg whites in a large clean bowl (not plastic) and whisk on a medium setting until stiff. Whisk in three quarters of the sugar a tablespoon at a time (see intro). Mix the espresso powder into the remaining 2-3 tablespoons sugar and fold this into the meringue along with the cornflour and vinegar. Spoon the meringue into the circle and spread to the edges, making a little hollow in the centre of the meringue. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the pavlova in the oven until completely cold.
- Carefully peel the meringue off the paper and place on a serving plate. Melt the chocolate in a microwave in short 30 second bursts, stirring between each heating, until no lumps remain. Pour the chocolate onto a clean tray or marble slab and spread out in an even layer, barely 1mm thick. Chill until hard. To make the shards, bring the chocolate out of the fridge and leave for 2-3 minutes, depending on the heat of the kitchen. Draw a knife across the chocolate- towards you, with the blade at an angle of 45 degrees to the tray. If the chocolate is too hard and breaks into crumbs wait a minute or two and try again. Similarly if the chocolate is too soft it won’t curl at all-so put it back in the fridge for a few minutes and try again. Place the shards on a plate lined with non-stick baking parchment and chill until you are ready to serve the pavlova.
- Just before serving pour the cream into a mixing bowl and add the marsala and icing sugar. Whisk until the cream holds its shape. Spoon into the centre of the pavlova and spread to the edges. Scatter over the chocolate shards.